Efficacy of Capsaicin for the Treatment of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: A Systematic Review

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© The Author(s) 2019. Objective: Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is characterized by cyclic vomiting, abdominal pain, and alleviation of symptoms via hot showers in chronic cannabinoid users. Capsaicin is recommended as a reasonable first-line treatment approach for CHS despite limited clinical evidence regarding its use. The objective of this study is to systematically review the efficacy data for capsaicin in CHS. Data Sources: A literature search using keywords related to cannabinoids, emesis, and capsaicin was performed in MEDLINE, CINAHL, and EMBASE from inception through March 31, 2019. Study Selection and Data Extraction: Studies and published abstracts in which capsaicin was used for CHS and clinical outcomes were reported were eligible for inclusion. Data Synthesis: A total of 241 articles were screened, of which 5 full-text articles and 6 conference abstracts were included. Full-text case reports (n = 3) and case series (n = 2) found capsaicin to be effective in a total of 18 patients. Published abstracts were in the form of case reports (n = 1), case series (n = 3), and retrospective cohort studies (n = 2). Relevance to Patient Care and Clinical Practice: Capsaicin use was described as beneficial in all case series and case reports; however, both retrospective cohort studies were unable to find a significant benefit for capsaicin on primary outcomes (emergency department length of stay). Conclusion: Current data for capsaicin efficacy in CHS is of low methodological quality. However, the limited data on alternative antiemetic therapies and capsaicin’s favorable risk-benefit profile make it a reasonable adjunctive treatment option.

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